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Can Stress Cause Canker Sores?

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Sores and ulcers on the mouth, lips, tongue can be painful and affect eating and chewing. Canker sores are called aphthous ulcers. They are usually small round sores surrounded by a red ring; they appear in single forms or in clusters of 2 to 3 that become large sores.

These sores can be simple or complex with varying degrees of pain depending on their severity they can last for as long as 7 days, 2 weeks or a month.

Canker sores appear on the soft tissues of the cheek and are accompanied by a burning or tingling sensation. These ulcers are small, shallow and white, yellow or grey. They can affect your daily routine if not treated early or on time.

What Are Canker Sores?

Canker sores are also known as aphthous ulcers or aphthous stomatitis. They are white or yellow blisters, enclosed with a red ring, these ulcers appear in the mouth, mostly on the insides of your cheeks, in the throat, or on either side of the tongue.

Canker sores are the most common type of oral lesions, they are painful and sometimes occur as a single ulcer or in groups of 2 to 5; they have a tendency to heal in 7 to 10 days.

These are small, shallow ulcers that develop on soft tissues such as the insides of the cheek or lips, the tongue, throat, soft palate and the mouth floor. Canker sore is prevalent in children, men, and women. However, it has a higher prevalence rate in women.

They are caused by factors such as stress, injury, and certain foods. These ulcers may cause difficulties in eating or speaking and may occur concurrently.

There are 2 categories of aphthous ulcers, simple and complex canker sores. Simple sores are more bearable and are more likely to appear a few times a year. Complex sores are more severe and painful. Although these are uncommon canker sores, they are larger.

Types Of Canker Sores

Canker sores can be so painful sometimes that it affects your daily routine, pain varies in the different those of sores. Some are less painful and last longer and vice versa. There are 3 types of aphthous ulcers.

Minor Canker Sores

These are simple sores that are small and occur without scars after the sore is healed, they are usually smaller and heal within 7 to 14 days.

Major Canker Sores

Major canker sores, known as complex canker sores. It is a more severe type of aphthous ulcer. They are irregular and oddly shaped; it is also extremely painful and lasts longer for about 2 weeks. Major canker sores also leave scars after healing.

Herpetiform Canker Sores

Herpetiform is a rare type of canker sore that appears in clusters of small ulcers which eventually merge to form a larger sore. The typical healing is a little over a week, however, sometimes, they may be present from a week to a month.

What Are The Symptoms Of Canker Sores

Canker sores are widely known and common to occur in the mouth. They may also be accompanied by some of these symptoms.

  • Sores that are sometimes white, yellow or grey.
  • Small, shallow ulcers surrounded with a red ring.
  • Burning or tingling sensation right before sores appear.
  • Fever, in severe cases.
  • Sores on soft, loose tissues in the throat, mouth, insides of the cheeks and lips.
  • Canker sores may be oddly shaped, this means that they can be oval, round or shallow.
  • Fatigue and/or feeling low or run down are likely to occur in severe cases
  • Swollen lymph nodes in complex canker sores.
  • Aphthous ulcers are often small and appear in single forms or in groups or clusters of 2 to 3 that become large sores.
  • Severe pain that could affect eating and other activities.
  • Large, irregular ulcers with scars that take a few weeks or more to heal.

What Causes Canker Sores

There are so many things that can contribute to the prevalence of this condition. A canker sore is not necessarily a disease, it is rather a condition that exists because of imbalances in your body. Here are some causes of aphthous ulcers.


There are some medications that can trigger aphthous ulcers. Canker sores have been known to arise in pregnant women and women who use certain contraceptive pills.


Oral injury from bites, hard brushing, dental treatment, chewing of gums can cause an injury and lead to sores.


Sensitivity to mouthwashes, toothpaste, food or fruits such as citrus which contain sodium lauryl sulfate can trigger or aggravate your canker sore.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal imbalances can cause other infections, as well as canker sores. This may be the reason women are prone to develop canker sores than men.


Lack of some nutritional factors can very much increase your chances of having canker sores. This includes nutrition like vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc, and iron.


Stress can raise your anxiety and hormonal levels and cause habits that trigger canker sores.

Difference Between Canker Sores And Cold Sores.

Cold sores are known as fever blisters, they develop from an infection called Herpes. These are sores prevalent during childhood or young adulthood and contracted from saliva. It is triggered by cold, flu, fever, stress, hormonal changes, physical trauma, and excess exposure to the sun.

Cold sores are located inside and outside the mouth around the lips, tongue, and gums. They are accompanied by painful burns, itch, and tingling sensations. They are also highly contagious and you can become infected from exposure or contact with infected persons.

Meanwhile, canker sores are lesions that also appear on the mouth and surrounding areas. These are mouth ulcers with no specific cause, often triggered by nutrition deficiency, infections. Canker sores, unlike cold sores, are not contagious. They also appear as round sores surrounded by red edges.

Cold sores and canker sores can be prevented by avoiding spicy foods, treating both sores as soon as onset can also help prevent them from developing into chronic issues.

Can Stress Cause Canker Sores

Stress and anxiety are potential influences of canker sores. When you are stressed or in anxiety-induced situations, you are likely to cultivate habits like constantly biting the insides of your cheeks or lips which affects the mouth and result in canker sores.

Hormonal fluctuations from stress and anxiety can also trigger or worsen canker sores. There are a lot of factors that can stress you and affect your hormone levels, such as your work, finance, family affairs, academics, presentations, and interviews.

Women are more likely to be stressed and anxious than men with their hormones easily affected. This explains why there is a higher prevalence rate of canker sores in women than men. Factors that can affect a woman’s hormonal balance include stress, contraceptives, pregnancy,

Diagnosis Of Canker Sores

A diagnosis is necessary before treatment to help determine the most suitable treatment available. Your doctor performs a visual examination and checks your symptoms, their onset and prevalence, pain severity, previous medical issues and underlying conditions, previous dental appointments, your previous and current medications.

Treatment Of Canker Sores

There are various methods that can treat canker sores, although minor canker sores do not require long processes of a treatment since they may heal on their own. These are:


  • Medications like mouth rinses are used to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Ointments, creams, gel and pastes for faster healing
  • Supplements to help boost your nutrition levels
  • Oral medications in severe cases, when sores do not respond to treatment.

Alternative Methods

  • Simple homemade therapies can speed up the healing process of your canker sores and reduce inflammation concurrently.
  • You can use salt and water or hydrogen peroxide and water to gargle in place of mouth water rinses, this helps ease pain and irritation.
  • Other homemade remedies that can be used include milk and ice chips to lessen pain.

Prevention Of Canker Sores

  • Avoid acidic or sensitive food that causes irritation and inflammation
  • Reduce or limit your gum chewing to avoid irritations
  • Use toothbrushes with soft bristles
  • Stay away from products with sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Improve oral hygiene to reduce the risk of developing aphthous ulcers
  • Practice stress management techniques to counteract stress
  • Discard unhealthy lifestyle choices that increase your stress levels or cause hormonal fluctuations


Canker sores can be extremely painful and restricting. Leaving you with an inability to eat or chew properly, or eat some foods. Some of these sores eventually disappear on their own, like with simple or minor canker sores. However, these sores should not be overlooked when they appear.

You should contact your doctor or health centre if you do not notice an improvement in your sores or you feel the onset of a fever. Stay away from highly acidic foods and fruits, take note and be aware of allergies and factors that trigger infections and inflammations.

[lightweight-accordion title=”Article Sources”]
1. Mayo Clinic: Canker sores

2. Everyday Health: Canker sores

3. Science Daily: New research comes to terms with old ideas about canker sores

4. MSD Manual Consumer Version: Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis

5. Knoxville dentist Jim Erpenbach DDS: New Research Brings New Understanding to Canker Sore Causes


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